Postcard: A belated but joyful visit to the land down under

Clarissa Giebel feeding a small kangaroo

Dr Clarissa Giebel from the University’s Institute of Population Health recently travelled to Australia for a research trip that involved lots of networking, talks, a plenary lecture, and kangaroo feeding!

It’s only taken 2.5 years for me to get out to Australia as part of my Wellcome Trust funding – there was a time where I thought it would never happen! But I’m so pleased it was finally possible to connect in real life with researchers I’ve worked with remotely on routine data in dementia care, and to meet a great number of brilliant minds over there.

In November, I was fortunate enough to finally board the plane(s) to Sydney, to do a whirlwind tour of dementia and ageing academia in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. I was really excited to meet so many people, share my research into inequalities in dementia care, and hopefully establish some new working relationships. My trip far exceeded my expectations and I must admit I do miss my time in Australia already.

So where did I go? Besides a lot of Australian wildlife appreciation at Taronga Zoo and Cleland Wildlife Park, I gave a series of talks and guest lectures at the University of New South Wales, Macquarie University, Monash University, NARI, and to top it off an invited plenary talk at the 55th Australian Association of Gerontology Conference in Adelaide. It was a brilliant opportunity to discuss my research and place it into different contexts with Australian researchers, care providers, and carers, and learning about the aged care system down under. There are striking similarities of course, more so in the many barriers which people with dementia can face when trying to access care.

Clarissa standing at a lectern while speaking at the AAG conference

Everyone was extremely welcoming and having met so many people ahead of the Conference made it an even greater event as well, knowing people to chat to over lunch, and seeing some familiar faces in the audience when giving my plenary. I was even invited to Conference dinners, making the Conference certainly one of the more sociable ones.

Thanks to my visit, I’m setting up new collaborations to apply for joint grant applications and compare the UK and Australian dementia care system. I’ve learned a great deal and was able to reflect on different care practices, contexts, and experiences, which I can try and embed in our work over here. Oh, and I do think a few more people have become aware of our Liverpool dementia research!

Obviously, it wasn’t just working, although there was a lot of that! This was my first (but hopefully not last) visit to Australia so there were sights to be seen, Sydney harbour ferry rides to do and good food to eat! However, the absolute personal highlights of my trip were koala bear holding, kangaroo and potoroo feeding, and seeing a quokka.

I feel encouraged to have met so many passionate people in the field, and I’m really looking forward to expanding and solidifying the link between Liverpool and Australia. For now, that means grant writing, data applications, and a brand new The Ageing Scientist podcast on Australian dementia and aged care. In the medium term, that means me hopefully going back next year to build on trip one!

Clarissa with a group of colleagues having dinner